Watching "The Last Dance" makes you wonder how Larry Bird would fit in today's NBA

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Gary Tanguay
·4 min read
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The Michael Jordan documentary, "The Last Dance," is great television and could not have come along at a better time.

You know I'm a die-hard Celtics fan, but it is impossible not be in awe of the 90's Bulls. How could any hoop fan not get tingles down their spine when hearing The Alan Parsons Project "Sirius" as Jordan's name boomed through the rafters.

To me, that always signaled something special was moments away. 

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Larry Bird had the best quote ever regarding Jordan. After Mike put up 63 points in a Bulls loss at the Garden in the '86 playoffs, Bird told the Boston Globe, "It's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Larry didn't hand out compliments lightly. Those words meant a lot.

As I was watching Jordan personally torch the Celts defense, I couldn't help but notice how slow and plodding the Celtics appeared ... and that was the Celtics team that won 67 games. 

I asked myself the question, "How good would Larry Bird be playing today's game?" Currently, the players are more athletic and more skilled, regardless of height. There were no seven-footers who could handle and shoot like Kevin Durant in the 80's. At 6-9, Magic was an anomaly at point guard.

How could I ever doubt Larry Legend? What was wrong with me?

One great thing about my job - and there are many - is that I have the pleasure of knowing some people who have actually played professional sports, and one in particular who played with Larry.

I press Max on my cell. I still think it's cool that I have the 1981 NBA Finals MVP (Cedric Maxwell) in my phone.

"Big Fella!" I cry into the phone as he picks up. 

"Big Fella!" He cries back. Yes, we have pet nicknames or maybe that's just what I want to believe. He may call everybody, "Big fella."

Anyway. 

Quick Max story. I was filling in for the highly talented Celtic play-by-play man Sean Grande one night when Jared Sullinger took an awful shot in the fourth quarter. It was sooooo baadddd my call went like this, "Ohhh, boy," as in "Oh brother." As a Celtic fan, I was so disheartened by the shot I never called the play! And THIS WAS ON THE RADIO!  Max laughed so hard he tinkled himself in his fine custom-made suit. 

No reason for that story. I just like to tell it. 

After exchanging the typical "Are you OK?" pleasantries of our time, I ask Max if Larry would be Larry in today's game. Honestly, his answer surprised me. 

Now, it's well-known that Max and Kevin McHale carried Larry's ass defensively. The two had a good laugh when Bird was named NBA second-team all-defense. I was expecting Max to point out what I saw, Larry's lack of speed, ability to elevate, etc…

Nope.

"Larry would have fit in well today," said his old teammate. "With his three-point shot and the pick and roll game, he would be better in today's game."

Whoaaaa, Big Fella. Better in today's game than his glory days of the 80's?

"No one would have touched him because of the tight whistles - and of course, he could shoot the three."

The three pointer I understand, so I figured maybe Larry would just be a shooter. What do I know?

"Larry would thrive with the pick and roll. He could rebound and he was always a great passer." Max went on to say Larry would be a better Luka Doncic, who was averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game before this season was suspended. 

Then I ask, "What about his defense, Max? You always had the tougher assignment."

Then Max pointed out Larry could have benefited from the zone D of today just like he benefited from playing alongside himself and McHale. 

Shame on me for even thinking that Larry wouldn't become a legend in today's game, but he still looked slow ... but then again, who didn't when playing Jordan? 

Watching "The Last Dance" makes you wonder how Larry Bird would fit in today's NBA originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston